Alphas or Betas: What’s in your house?

September 4, 2006 | Karin's Blog | 21 comments

Is your significant other an alpha or beta?

Do you write alpha or beta heroes?

If you have a beta significant other, is there enough conflict in your stories between the h/h too sustain the story? Or do you find yourself in a quandary half way through the book realizing you don’t have enough or, gasp! no conflict?

This past weekend at my Black Diamond RWA meeting, (thanks again ladies for the virgin Cosmos!) we discussed among many things the lack of conflict in the stories of those writers with beta spouses.

As most of you know, I married an alpha. My boys are alphas, my brother is an alpha and my father is an alpha, albeit a quiet alpha. While my alphas are true in the sense of the word and with no beta tendencies that I can see, they are loving, protective, loyal and have no problem showing public displays of affection. We are a touchy feely family. Hubby and I hold hands in the grocery store and he has on occasion copped a feel in the frozen food isle. He thinks it’s really funny to come up behind me and grab my ass and say, “Hey lady!’ As if he’s a stranger. One of these days he’s going to get nut checked.
I digress.

So my stories are riddled with tension and conflict between h/h. It comes natural to me. I write a lot of dialogue. We are a chatty family. There are lots of quips, jokes and tomfoolery in and around the house. Sunday dinners are a production in of themselves.

I just looked up the definition of alpha. The noun definition quite simply is: first. Interesting. Both hubby and I are the oldest children.
The adjective definition: the dominate one, the leader.
Beta: noun: nearly complete prototype
Adjective: second in position.

We have three dogs. A big Rotty (who is alpha now that her mate Bubba died. He was king alpha when he lived and Britt acquiesced to him), two shih tzus, and we have el gato brato. Britt doesn’t come in the house much, but in the house, the youngest shih tzu, Zoe, is the alpha personality. She barks at everyone and everything, she patrols the house. She loves to go after Kitty who in turn gets his swipes in. CoCo, won’t even come down the stairway in the morning if Kitty is lying in wait at the bottom. I have to get her. She will wait patiently while Zoe dives into the food, or will back off when Zoe takes a bone from her, or a toy, or horns in on playtime. All the while Kitty waits patiently for a chance to get Zoe. If he still had his claws he would be the undisputed king of the house. But because he can’t damage Zoe she is continually trying to stay top bitch. When my daughter brings her bratty puppy, Chopper, over, Zoe runs for the hills. Go figure.

This is all fascinating.

Now, are you an alpha female or a beta?
What type of heroine do you find yourself writing?

As an alpha female myself you can guess there is and will continue to be conflict in my house. Mostly with the younger alphas. The senior alpha, hubby, has mellowed considerably and so have I. I don’t have to continue to wrestle for dominance, it’s a given. I am queen in my castle. Hubby is king, we respect each other accordingly.
Naturally, my heroines are alphas. It makes for some great conflict and tension.

I have written a beta female, once. It was hard for me to get into her skin without making her come across weak. It’s not that I see betas as weak, because the ones I know are far from it, I just can’t get into skin I don’t understand so I experiment and screw it up. In real life, I love a grounded beta. They balance me. I just have difficulty writing them. When I finally nailed this character, she became my favorite. Go figure that. Am I trying to tell myself something?

So, I’d be interested in hearing your theories, and which lurks in your house and stories, alphas, betas?




  1. Edie Ramer

    My husband and I are both middle children and we’re both betas–but we have some alpha in us. Karin, I wish I could say there’s no conflict, but that ain’t so. It must be that bossy alpha part inside us. 😈

    I’d say my characters are a mix. My men aren’t wimps, but they don’t thump their chests either (not too much, anyway). Same goes for the women. 🙂

  2. LaDonna

    Wow, Karin, intriguing, and believe it of not, not something I truly thought about until now. Seriously, Ran and I make sense, so why bother picking it apart? lol. Okay, he’s a middle child, I’m a younger. Not sure I understand all the layers here. We hate conflict, both of us. But, I have to have my say if anything bothers me. Period. I get it out, emotion and all, then it’s out there. Gone. Ran is loyal, protective, serious about his work, a great husband, and Papaw. He doesn’t suffer fools well. He appears easy-going, but he always knows exactly what’s going on around him. And, he’s usually head-on. So, help me here, what exactly are we? lol

  3. May

    Alphas all the way when it comes to writing. I’ve this WIP waiting in the wings that has something like 4-6 alpha women who want revenge. I guess my personality does bleed into the concepts I come with–the revenge part was because I needed to give them something to do.

    Though the maybe hero of my current WIP is an alpha with a good dose of beta–well, he seems that way anyway. Don’t know him very well.

  4. Amanda

    I and hubby are definite Alphas. Our early marriage years were lots of fights and tears (mine). Thank God we have mellowed. As a child I was a big Alpha. It was my way or the highway. I think even alphas have to learn to compromise in life.

    My characters are alphas I try to make Betas. I guess I just want everyone to get along. I’ve been reading Tess Gerritsen’s Jane Rizzoli stories trying to have real Alphas in my stories.

    Last contest said my heroine was kickass, so it must be working. LOL

  5. Theresa

    I love Alpha Heroes, so that’s what I write. Alpha heart and soul.

    The heroine in my first book wasn’t Alpha. But she wasn’t Beta either. She had a deep quiet strength. She did what she needed to do, when it needed doing. But she was also willing to step back and let the hero take care of the things he was experienced at. She didn’t try to wrestle control away. If things had gone to hell though– she would have stepped up and taken matter into her own hands with no hesitation.

    Looking deeper, I do think I patterned her after me. I’m neither Alpha nor Beta. I’m very confident, very controlled, not afraid of conflict, although I don’t seek it out. I don’t go looking for leadership positions, but often times it will be given to me anyway. During get togethers with family and friends, I tend to watch and listen more than talk– but when I do say something people always listen. Interestingly, when we had a serious family emergency EVERYONE fell apart and turned to me to make decisions. It was exhausting trying to keep everyone grounded and stable.

    My second heroine is a completely different animal. She is Alpha to the core. As is the hero. There are layers and layers of conflict between these two. Interestingly, this book is MUCH, MUCH more dialog driven than the first one. They both have smart mouths.

  6. Karin

    Edie- you do a good job with the alpha beta mix.
    LaDonna, far be it from me to be an expert, (I’d really like to be an expert in something ;)) but it sounds like you and hubby are beta’s with some alpha tendencies. How about your h/h? How do they play out? Is there tension and conflict or do you have to dig for it?
    May- a girl after my own heart.
    Amanda- I can see your feisty heroines. How about your heroes?

  7. Karin

    Theresa! I love a smart mouthed girl, and a wise cracking guy. (Conversely I detest a foul-mouthed female or male in books and in person.)
    I can see the quiet alpha in you. I think I have those tendencies as well. I will not go out and aggresively look for a fight, and I will not play with nasty people who have thier own agenda, but I will fight. Especially when I go into protective mode. lol my youngest daughter has a mouth and ay yi yi yi does she get into trouble. She lets mean people know they are mean and she’ll do in front of a crowd.

  8. LaDonna

    Karin, tension is by far my biggest challenge as a writer. I have to dig, China dig. lol. Okay, I see where this is going. My conflict is based on internal more than external. Good golly, what’s a gal to do? And I think you’re an expert on many levels for what it’s worth!

  9. Elisabeth

    Both alphas here, too. DH is the youngest of five, I’m the middle of three (both brothers). But we both have strong personalities. Like Amanda, it took both of us a long time to figure out the push/pull in our relationship, but we’ve both mellowed with age. 😉

    I tend to write mostly alphas. The H/h in my last book were both alphas – lots of internal struggle and conflict between them. I’ve done Gammas, but I think the conflict has to be just right to make it work. Writing alphas (for me) is a lot more fun. 🙂

  10. Amanda

    Karin, I’m still working on letting my heros be Alphas. I hate giving control to anyone, even my characters; especially male characters. LOL

  11. kltabke

    ah yes, the elusive gamma. I’m with you, Eli, alpahs are fun. I love messing with them. bwahahahaha.
    Amanda, just let the alpha *think* he has control.

  12. Theresa

    A quit Alpha… I like that 😀

    I had a dog once that was a quiet Alpha. She’d let the other dogs pretty much do what they wanted, take bones right out of her mouth, food from her bowls–whatever, she was willing to roll with things…..until someone tried to take her stuffie– then look out.

    Everyone backed off. You didn’t mess with that dog’s stuffie.


  13. raine

    Guess I’d have to plead that I’m a gamma. I guess. *ggg*

    I think I’m dominant when I CHOOSE to be. Have a serious problem with so-called ‘authority’. But I don’t feel the need to ‘lead’, unless asked. I’m fine with letting everyone screw up on their own, lol.

    My heroes are mostly alphas, but not the chest-pounding type. They’re usually quietly confident, and that makes them dominant, I think.

    Most of my heroines have been betas…but I’m working on a couple now who are most DEFINITELY alpha. 😉

  14. Michelle Diener

    My husband and I are both alphas, and both the oldest child in our families. But we are also good at communicating, so we have led a relatively storm-free life 🙂 The h/h I’m writing now are both definitely alpha, but my last story, the heroine wasn’t so much alpha as a beta with a lot of inner strength and resolve. The hero was alpha though 🙂

  15. Sharon/Maya

    I love Betas, and well, I love alphas. I love men *g* Fascinating lot.

    I wouldn’t call my husband an alpha or a Beta. He tends to march to the beat of his own drum lol. No way I could label his ass. And jsut when I think I have him figured out, he always manages to surprise me anyway.

    As for me, I’m definitely a mixture. There are times I am an alpha. Hubby teases me and says our family is matriarchal, but there are other times that being Alpha is too much of a headache.

    As for writing, I love em both and write em both. I’d get bored as hell always writing an alpha or always writing a Beta. So I mix it up. My favorites, however, are those that draw characteristics from both personalities. I hate boxing a character in 🙂

  16. Karin

    🙂 I think Ty in GOOD GIRL GONE BAD is a quiet alpha. Most of the time. Definitely Reese, in SKIN but not Jase in JADED. Jase is more like Mel Gibson in WHAT WOMEN WANT, but with dark undertones.
    My favoroite beta in the whole wide world is Joe Dubois in Medium. Love him!

  17. Theresa

    Oh yes–

    Joe Dubois is the perfect Beta hero. But he still has the strength to stand up to Allison when its important enough to him.

    and I lurv dark undertones.

  18. Jacqui D.

    Karin! I love your blog! 😀
    My hubby and I are both Alpha’s. He’s a quiet Alpha, and I am not. He’s an only child and I’m a younger child *but because my siblings are so screwed up I might as well have been the oldest*.

    our Daughter however, is definitely BETA – and it pains me that she is so overly sensative to other people’s feelings, that she’s a follower (to a point)instead of a leader, that she doesn’t push when she truly believes she is right…but I love her for each of those reasons…she doesn’t hurt her friends, she is loyal and honest, she cares, almost always does the right thing she mediates between her friends – she is polite and respectful in a world where kids her age have no respect for anyone, not even themselves.
    But, being that I’m an Alpha, I sometimes find it hard to understand her line of thinking…which brings me to my point; honestly, when I read an action, intrigue, mystery with a beta female, it makes me want to scream, “what the hell are you doing? are you stupid? do you lack common sense?” because really I just don’t understand the lack of inner strength for self preservation.
    Maybe I just don’t get out much…

    oh – and something I’m sure you will have noticed from your Hubby’s days on the force…
    When my husband was hired by his force, on graduation day from Police College, you couldn’t tell who was who (except for the females). All the men hired by one recruiter looked alike and acted alike (she has my taste in men). They were all the same height, build, colouring, attitude etc. It was weird to see my husband stand beside his fellow recruits because they looked like they could have been brothers. Alpha’s every one!

  19. Karin

    Theresa, dark undertones will snag me every time!
    Jacqui so glad you like it here.:) I have a beta daughter as well, and she’s the oldest. I guess it’s dna.
    In hubby’s hey day he was part of a midnight squad that rocked and rolled. They all had flat tops, foo man chu moustaches, and bad attitudes. It was a thing of beauty. While it may not take a full blown alpha to work the streets, it takes someone with inherent alpha undertones.
    Sometimes, afterwards when the guys would come hang out at my house and blow off steam there was more tetstosterone bouncing around than any woman could take.

  20. Lori G. Armstrong

    Hubby and I are both alphas. It sucks at times. We both want our own way. He’s used to telling 50 people what to do, day in day out. Fortunately, he doesn’t try to boss me at home 🙂 We voice our dissenting opinions, loudly – and the kids scatter. But we get it off our chests and get over it and everything is hunky dory again.

    I write alpha females. I’m working on a beta female now, just to see if I can do it. Sometimes I want to smack her. Then I smack myself because I know not everyone is like me and a little variety is a good thing.

  21. Karin

    ‘I’m working on a beta female now, just to see if I can do it. Sometimes I want to smack her.’

    LOL, I know that feeling!

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  • 2013 (2)
  • 2012 (7)
  • 2011 (10)
  • 2010 (41)
  • 2009 (156)
  • 2008 (165)
  • 2007 (160)
  • 2006 (149)
  • 2005 (26)